This week marks the anniversary (September 17th) of Ric Flair winning his first world title, so what better time to share a few interesting stories and facts from the life of The Nature Boy?
Of course 10 facts barely scratches the surface of Flair’s legendary, often insane 40-year-plus career, so consider this just a first installment. Also, I’ve decided not to focus heavily on stories of drinking and debauchery since a) said stories are hard/impossible to verify and b) there’s a pretty fine line between a fun Ric Flair carousing story and a sad one, and we’re keeping things (mostly) happy in this article.
So, without further ado, here’s a few things you might not know about the stylin’, proflin’, limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss-stealing 16-time world champion…
1) Ric Flair was adopted under shady circumstances. As you could probably guess, The Nature Boy wasn’t born Ric Flair, but it turns out his real name Richard Fliehr wasn’t his birth name either. Records are sketchy, but Flair was born in Memphis in 1949 under the name Fred Phillips, Fred Demaree or Fred Stewart.
By his own admission, Flair hasn’t looked too deeply into the details of his birth, but he was adopted from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, a notorious orphanage which was found guilty in the early 50s of kidnapping children from their rightful mothers and arranging illegal black market adoptions. Whether Flair was the victim of this is hard to determine, since most of the orphanage’s records were destroyed or never existed to begin with and, again, Flair isn’t interested in knowing either way. Whatever the circumstances, little Fred was quickly adopted, moved to Edina, Minnesota and renamed Richard. So yes, Ric Flair’s earliest days were spent as a foundling at an evil orphanage — I dare you to write a better rags to riches story set-up.
Pictured: Ric Flair’s childhood.
2) The Nature Boy’s training was straight out of Rocky IV. Hey, remember those ridiculous training montages from Rocky IV where Sylvester Stallone runs around in the snow carrying logs and shit? Well, it turns out those scenes could have passed for a documentary of Ric Flair’s wrestling training. Ric trained under the legendary Verne Gagne, whose facilities fell somewhat short of the performance centers of today. Here’s a description from Ric Flair’s autobiography To Be the Man…
“We’d start off running along this frozen creek, slipping and sliding. I’m not exaggerating. You’d have to wear three sweat suits. The only way to stay warm was to keep moving and not slow down the whole day, for six or eight hours.
One day it was 10 degrees. The next, it was ten below. We ran around this farm, not on a track, but on a customized path that went about two miles.”
Here’s Ric’s friend and fellow trainee Ken Patera describing the ring they trained in…
“We went to work out in the ring, which was inside on of Verne’s old horse barns. The horses were downstairs, and the chickens were upstairs. It was below-zero temperatures, with one light bulb in the whole barn, just dangling on a wire. The slats on the barn were about an inch apart, so there were times when we’d show up to four-foot snowdrifts in the place. The chickens would be roosting on the crossbeams of the barn, shitting in the ring, so we’d have to clean the mat.